Mac OS X: Automator and Error code -1728

So some of you may know of Automator, Apple’s little automation program introduced in Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger”. Well it’s a great application and I use it all the time. The current version in Mac OS X “10.6” is better than ever. I’m currently scanning in old family photos. So I end up with dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of huge .TIFF image files. Thanks to Automator I can resize the images, compress them to JPEGs, and save them for the Web, all without harming the original high-resolution scanned in files.

But I came across an odd error. Error code #-1728. This was odd. I put my images in the workflow. I instructed automator to resize the images by 50% and to save them as JPG images. Automator seemed to work, but then stopped. I was puzzled. I keep getting error #1728. The only hint was the obscure dialog for this error “Change type of images failed – 1 error” and “Can’t get <class posx> of missing value”. I was so confused… I didn’t understand why some images would work and others wouldn’t.

Then it dawned on me. It was because of the file name! Some of the images I scanned in I added slashes (/) in the filename. Mac OS X will let you type it in the file – but I guess it’s not a smart thing to do when trying to edit or open files, especially in Automator. So all I did was rename my files. For example “Scanned Photo 35 (4/29/1994)” wouldn’t pass through Automator… but when it was renamed to “Scanned Photo 35 (4-29-1994)” the image passed through fine. After the fix everything went smoothly! ūüôā

So remember if you have an odd issue in Automator make sure any forward slashes or other odd characters in the file names are removed. Good luck!


iDVD is still broken in iLife ’11

Apple recently¬†announced¬†their new version of their iLife suite. Now I love this series of programs. I use iMovie, iDVD and iPhoto very often. Recently I’ve been converting a bunch of home video VHS tapes from my family and my girlfriend’s family. They love being able to have their VHS home videos on DVD with chapters and nice menus.

The problem is that iDVD version 7.0.4 (the latest version from iLife ’09) is riddled with bugs. Things just don’t work. One frustrating example is that if you choose an older theme, such as the ‘Watercolor’ theme (which is nice for family DVDs) it is impossible to edit the text in the chapters menu! Or other places as well. You can select the button, you can right-click on it, but no matter what you do, you can not change the text. So after you’ve¬†arranged¬†the chapters, changed the frames, moved the boxes where you want them – you can’t edit the text. The only way for you to edit the text is to temporarily switch themes, edit the text, and switch back. Losing all of your custom placement, frames, and editing. This is beyond frustrating. The only thing you can edit is the name of the menu itself.

I hoped that since iLife ’11 included iDVD they would have updated it. This didn’t seem the case, however the Apple Store site mentions that iDVD is now version 7.1, instead of the current 7.0.4. I hoped they would have fixed these issues. Sadly they remain in version 7.1 – it seems 7.1 was just made to possibly be compatible with the new version of iMovie.

Yes the themes are older and Apple probably isn’t going to fix them, but why include them if they’re broken? It’s very frustrating, especially when working with a load of similar projects. I would also love the ability to use a previous project and replace just the main video. I would like a template of the chapter titles and visual button placement/theme to stay the same, and just edit the content. That is impossible as well.

Yes Apple may be running toward the notion of digital download videos, but making DVDs is still one of the easiest ways to share videos with your family. Especially for Grandma which doesn’t have a computer and already knows how to use a DVD player. Apple needs to fix iDVD, or create a whole new version like they did with iMovie.

Apple TechStep Diagnostic Tool

Have you ever heard of an Apple TechStep? Well this was a tool used in the early 1990’s by an Apple Tech to test a Macintosh computer. The tool was only sold privately to authorized Apple dealers, but later on Apple released it publicly for a price of $999. I recently picked up one of these on eBay for about $25.

The purpose of this tool is to test a Mac’s components. The Mac actually boots off of this device, the device can then run tests on the Power Supply, RAM, Motherboard, Drives, or Ports. The TechStep has a little LCD screen which displays only text. The numbered keypad has some text on it also to help you navigate around. On the back of the device are a few ports to connect to the computer: 25-pin SCSI, ADB (2 ports), Modem serial, Printer serial, and 3.5mm Stereo Mini-Jack. Also on the left side of the unit is an AC adapter port, the On/Off switch, and a secondary Serial port used for transferring diagnostic reports to a healthy Mac. The unit can run off of it’s AC power adapter or a single 9 volt battery, mine did not come with an adapter but the battery works just fine.

The TechStep uses ROM packs to load the computer diagnostic information. These are similar to GameBoy cartridges, the TechStep can hold two at a time. Each ROM has a sticker which lists which machines it is compatible with. Two were included with my unit “CPU Tests, Vol 1, v. 1.1.1” and “CPU Tests, Vol. 2, v. 1.0”. Volume 1 works with Macintosh Classic, SE, SE/30, II, IIx, and IIcx models. Volume 2 works with Macintosh LCD, LCD II, and Classic II models. There are additional ROM packs, but these are very hard to come by.

To start using the TechStep shut off your Mac and the TechStep and connect a 25-pin SCSI cable, Serial Cable (Modem port works best for me) and an ADB cable running from your Mac to your TechStep. These cables are all male-to-male and are regular cables, no special adapters needed. Insert a 9-volt battery (after removing the ports section) or attach your AC cord, turn the unit on via the switch on the left. ¬†The LCD screen will display which ROM card is in Slot A and will show an “Identify CPU” screen, listing the computers it’s compatible with. Press the number next to the machine, for example in my case I was using a Macintosh Classic, so I selected 1 for Classic.

You are brought to a “Home” screen showing you the list of the many tests you can run. I selected 3 for “Logic” and selected 1 again for the “All” function so I can run all of the available tests. The TechStep instructs you to turn on the Mac, once the Mac is turned on it will boot from the TechStep entirely – no disks needed! The Mac will go to a ‘Sad Mac’ face, but do not worry since your Mac is not being harmed. Your selected test will run and when it is finished you may save the results. Hold the * key and press the 7 (Save) button on the TechStep. You will be asked if you want to overwrite an older log if there is one.¬†Now that you’ve run your test switch off your TechStep and your Mac.

With the TechStep software on your Mac you can test your Diagnostic Tool or retrieve logs from your TechStep unit. The ‘Report Generator’ program retrieves the logs from your unit. Plug in a serial cable from the Modem port on your Mac to the serial port on the left side of the TechStep next to the Power switch. Turn the TechStep on. Open the ‘Report Generator’ program and select “Receive Log” from the “Options menu” – a waiting dialog will come up. Eventually you will see the log the TechStep has generated on your screen. A detailed list of every test with the results is shown, you can save this or generate a report for printing out.

The TechStep is a very cool little device, it has become a hot item for vintage Apple and Mac collectors. If you find a unit be sure it includes a ROM pack (it’s A and B slots will be visibly blank without them) – without these ROM packs the TechStep can not function and will just display a “ROM Pack Not Found” screen.


Below is a diagnostic report which was saved onto my TechStep when I got it.